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You Say Apology, I Say Shifting Blame: Big Love’s Chloe Sevigny vs. Context

You Say Apology, I Say Shifting Blame

March 26th, 2010

On Big Love, Bill Henrickson and his family live a secretive life, outwardly projecting an image of normality while in truth living a complicated life as Polygamists. This requires a lot of what is effectively damage control: someone steps out of line, or reveals something they shouldn’t, or allows someone into the truth about their lives, and then the whole family mobilizes to shut things down and return to the status quo. It’s a process that has happened numerous times over the course of four seasons of the show, and it’s a process that apparently some PR flack believes will actually work in the real world.

Earlier this week, an interview with Chloë Sevigny, who plays Nicki on the HBO drama series, was posted at The A.V. Club. It was posted in the form of a lengthy Q&A that spanned her entire career, and after a brief discussion about differences between drama and comedy Sean O’Neal and Sevigny share the following exchange:

AVC: This past season of Big Love has taken a lot of flak for being so over-the-top.

CS: It was awful this season, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not allowed to say that! [Gasps.] It was very telenovela. I feel like it kind of got away from itself. The whole political campaign seemed to me very farfetched. I mean, I love the show, I love my character, I love the writing, but I felt like they were really pushing it this last season. And with nine episodes, I think they were just squishing too much in. HBO only gave us nine Sundays, because they have so much other original programming—especially with The Pacific—and they only have a certain amount of Sundays per year, so we only got nine Sundays. I think that they had more story than episodes. I think that’s what happened.

They go on to discuss the season in further detail, including some specific plot points that were particularly “over the top,” and then they move on. When I read the piece, I was ecstatic: here was an actress offering a legitimate and well-substantiated opinion on the show based on its narrative development rather than any sort of complaint about not getting enough material, or being mistreated, or anything of the sort. She explains her concern, makes note of her love for the people involved with the show, and then even offers a reason (HBO rushed them) the season went off the rails. She was measured and fair, and I applauded her for being so honest with her opinion.

But, like when someone mistakenly gets insight into the Henricksons’ life, someone is trying to make this story go away as quickly as possible: Sevigny has been interviewed by Michael Ausiello, the go-to television apology expert after his recent EW piece with Katherine Heigl, where she completely rewrites the details of interview, something I would expect Nicki to do if we’re sticking with this “life imitates art” thing. Says Sevigny:

I feel like what I said was taken out of context, and the [reporter] I was speaking to was provoking me. I was in Austin [at the SXSW festival] and really exhausted and doing a press junket and I think I just… I wasn’t thinking about what I was saying. You know, after a day of junkets sometimes things slip out that you don’t mean, and I obviously didn’t mean what I said in any way, shape, or form. I love being on the show. I have nothing but respect and admiration for our writers and everybody involved with the show.

Now, first off, Sean O’Neal has made his official response to these comments, including the audio of that section of the interview. But, since I’m still enormously frustrated with this response from Sevigny, let’s talk about the three things are happening here, and how none of them do anything to “help” this situation.

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